A 2-YEAR-OLD toddler in a white frock and candy-striped stockings plays with alphabet blocks on a sunny terrace. Baby at Play is one of a series of paintings that artist Thomas Eakins made of family and friends after returning to Philadelphia, Pa, from 3 years of artistic study in France in the 1860s. The child is his niece, Eleanor (Ella) Crowell, shown behind the large house in which they lived with several other members of the extended Eakins family.
Although Eakins and his wife, Susan, had no children of their own, young people were an important part of his life. He was a devoted uncle and spent many weekends playing outdoor games, riding horses, or practicing marksmanship with Ella and her 9 siblings after the Crowells moved to rural Pennsylvania. Professionally, teaching art was a close second to painting as a focus of his career. He began by teaching life-painting classes at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and eventually became its director of instruction.
Koepsell TD. Thomas Eakins (1844–1916)Baby at Play (1876). Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2003;157(11):1050. doi:10.1001/archpedi.157.11.1050